Braves end homestand in walk-off fashion
Given a chance to end the recent 8-game homestand with a winning record, the Braves took on the Astros for a quick two-game set before embarking west for a 7-game trip.
With a 3-2 win in Monday’s opener, the Braves went into Tuesday’s finale with a chance to end the homestand with a 4-game winning streak and a 5-3 record.
But all signs pointed to the Braves being shut out, 1-0, by Wandy Rodriguez until Brian McCann came up with two outs in the bottom of the 9th.
Down to their last strike, McCann launched a Mark Melancon offering to left center, tying the ballgame up and sending the game into extra innings, denying Rodriguez of his third win of the year and keeping the lefty without a victory since April 19 (a 6-1 victory over the Mets).
With one out in the bottom of the 11th, McCann came up following an Eric Hinske walk and crushed Jeff Fulchino’s offering just inside the foul pole, depositing it into the right field seats and sending the crowd at Turner Field into a frenzy with a 3-1 win.
For McCann, the home runs were his second and third of the season and his second walkoff hit of the homestand. McCann delivered a game-winning single in Thursday’s finale against Washington, which was also in the 11th inning, oddly enough.
McCann’s performance preserved a stellar outing for Lowe, who pitched 7 strong innings, giving up the lone run, a solo homer in the top of the 7th, allowing 5 hits and striking out 4.
After Lowe’s afternoon was done, he handed the ball over to the bullpen, and the pen kept the Astros at bay, allowing 3 hits over 4 innings.
Scott Proctor found himself in a bit of a jam in the top of the 8th with one out and the bases loaded, but the righty reliever got Carlos Lee to pop out before striking out Brett Wallace to end the threat.
In the opener, the Braves found themselves down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the 6th before Joe Mather’s single scored two, giving the Braves a 2-1 lead.
The lead was short-lived, as the Astros tied the game in the top of the 7th before Hinske’s single scored Nate McLouth, giving the Braves the 3-2 lead.
Tommy Hanson got the win, continuing his strong start to the season, notching his 5th win as he struck out 10 while allowing 3 hits and the lone run. Craig Kimbrel worked the 9th for his 11th save after Eric O’Flaherty pitched a perfect 8th inning.
With the homestand behind them, the Braves turn their attention to the Diamondbacks for a quick two-game set.
Wednesday’s game 1 pits spot starter Julie Teheran against lefty Joe Saunders. Teheran, who is filling in for the injured Brandon Beachy, was solid in his first start, giving up 3 runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Phillies, a game the Braves lost 3-0, but a great first outing against a lineup as seasoned as the Phillies while Saunders (0-5) comes in looking for his first win of the year.
In Thursday’s finale, Jair Jurrjens takes the mound opposite Josh Collmenter. JJ is looking to continue his strong season after beginning the year on the DL. JJ is 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA, while D-Backs starter Collmenter is looking for his first second win of the year. So far, Collmenter has not thrown more than 6 innings, but has a 2-0 record and a 0.90 ERA.
The Diamondbacks come into the series on the heels of losing 6 of their last 8 (not including Wednesday) as the Braves have won 5 of their last 6.
Keys to the series
- Continue the strong May
- The Braves are 12-4 so far in May and enjoying contributions from all over their roster. With the road trip, this may prove crucial in late-inning situations
- Don’t look past the Diamondbacks
- True, the D-Backs are 18-23 so far, but it is still early in the season, and they compete in a wide-open NL West. Stay focused on the task at hand until it is complete
- Make their pitching staff work for every out
- With Saunders posting an 0-5 win-loss record and Collmenter making his second start of his MLB career, the Braves can take advantage of both pitchers if they do not swing at the first pitch
Notes: Both Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward were inserted back into the lineup for Tuesday’s finale.. Australian reliever Peter Moylan’s back surgery was successful, according to the doctors performing the operation, and the righty is scheduled to return within 2-3 months.. McCann’s 9th inning home run was in a pinch-hit situation and came one batter after Hunter Pence robbed Hinske’s of a home run.. After Tuesday’s two-hit performance, Martin Prado’s hitting streak is now at 9 games.. The Braves pitching staff had a 4-game hitting streak coming into Tuesday’s game before Derek Lowe went 0-2 to end the streak..